As parents, it’s tough to compete with tech. From TV to tablets, gaming systems to cell phones, it’s challenging to get your child to stop staring at a screen — and be fully present. But author Gregory Bloom believes that it’s absolutely possible…with a little patience and a lot of practice. That’s why he wrote the book, Overcoming Entertainment Addiction: How to Cure Your Children of the Need to be Constantly Entertained. Bloom spoke with us about how to tame the tech and encourage your kids to be more engaged in other activities that will make them just as happy…almost.
What was the impetus for writing this book?
There are so many things that kids have today at their disposal to entertain them. I call it the “Entertainment Zone.” It includes DVD’s, iPod’s, Game Boy, cell phones, etc. Because these items are so prolific in our society, they can very easily take a family out of balance. Since the kids want to spend so much time using these items, they can wind up raising the children!
From texting at the dinner table to sitting in front of the TV for hours, all of this can mess up relationships in the family. As parents, we only have a few years to build a great relationship with our children. If your children don’t listen to you when they’re 5, or even 10 years-old, they’re certainly not going to listen to you when they’re 18! I decided to write this book to help other families with this problem, too.
Did you find the Entertainment Zone existed in your own family?
Yes, I did. I realized that I was addicted to sports TV one Sunday night about five years ago. My wife confronted me and said, “Do you know how many hours of football you’ve watched today? You’ve watched about eight hours, and you didn’t even spend 15 minutes with the kids, except for the time they were sitting next to you watching it!” Of course, I was quite defensive about it, and I said, “We’re doing this together. You can watch it with me!” I realized, though, that quality time with my family didn’t mean watching TV together.
I do a lot of public speaking, and many women will come up to me after a speech and tell me that their husbands are addicted to sports TV, like I was. I say to them, “Guilty as charged! Tell your husband to read my book!” [laughs] In my own home, I had let these things sneak in a little at a time. After all, you don’t go to Best Buy and load your car up with all these electronic devices. And before you know it, your kids are in their bedroom all the time with cell phones and Game Boy and you don’t see them. So, I had to do some drastic things. That’s how I came up with G.R.O.W.T.H., the six step recovery process in my book.
It’s very interesting how you use words like “addiction” and “recovery.”
Many researchers say it’s a true addiction. If you don’t believe me, then try it. Take your kids’ iPod and cell phone away from them, and see what kind of reaction you get! You’re going to get a lot of crying, moaning and anger. I think that’s an addiction. It’s not bad, but it has to be put in balance. There’s a lot of national research stating that Americans are out of balance. Many kids are using these items for at least 6 hours a day; that’s almost the equivalent of a full-time job! That’s just crazy!
What is your own personal balance today?
Some people think I’m anti-TV, but I’m not. I’m against watching hours and hours of it. There’s a lot of good stuff on TV, but there’s a lot of crap, too! I want people to be more selective in their viewing choices. In our home, we used to watch four hours of TV a day, and a lot of times it wasn’t even being actively watched; it was just on. Now, my kids watch no TV during the week. We record their programs for them, and then watch them on the weekend. They can watch two programs a week, unless it’s something like the Tour De France or the World Cup, or something great on the Discovery Channel.
Wow. That’s very brave of you.
It’s kind of severe, but my wife and I believe that if you take something away, you have to give them something else. Now, the balance for each family will be different. But since we unplugged from the Entertainment Zone, I see super positive things happening in my family. My kids do better in school. They don’t fight as much with each other. When they have a play date, they all play together. They are into the arts; all of our kids play a different musical instrument, and they play it well. They play every day, and it’s to a point now that we don’t even have time to watch TV. They don’t even ask for it anymore.
What do you want the take-away to be from your book?
Parents should be involved in what their children are watching on TV, and how much they watch. When they do watch TV, you want to coach them to make good decisions, and watch material that is age-appropriate. This generation of parents has to be more proactive than our parents ever had to be. We want to enjoy family time with our children, and not have to share it with the Entertainment Zone. Otherwise, our children will be swept up in it and they won’t even miss us.